What is the place of thought?
Meditation is the total negation of the self
2nd Public Talk, San Francisco, California
March 11, 1973
It's a lovely morning, it's a pity to sit indoors, but there it is!
May we continue with what we were talking about yesterday? We were saying how important it is that we establish in ourselves right relationship with others, whether it be an intimate relationship or a relationship with a neighbour who might be next door or a thousand miles away. Because relationship without a conclusion, an image, brings about naturally right conduct; and behaviour is righteousness. And once we have this quality of relationship with another in which the yesterday with all its memories and insults and hurts have gone, then obviously we should bring about a totally different kind of education. If you observe now right throughout the world, our education conditions the mind to conform to the pattern which is already established, and to continue a life in which there is constant battle both within and without. If you observe what happens to our children when we have no right relationship with each other - you can observe it in the streets of New York or here or anywhere else, in Bombay: the corruption, the violence, vandalism and brutality, because at home each one is concerned with his own ambition, with his own pursuit of pleasure, with his self-importance and a position in society. And obviously when there is no right relationship with another - and we mean by right relationship, a state of mind and heart in which all the machinery that builds the image has come to an end so that there is complete harmony not only within oneself but with another. Then we should be really concerned with the right kind of education, not to condition the mind, and be concerned with the whole development of man, not only intellectually, as it is being done now, but also that quality of mind that is compassionate, that is concerned with the total non-fragmentary way of living. And it seems to me that unless this kind of relationship is established, which is not a theory, a speculative abstraction, but which can be brought about every day if we are sufficiently aware of all the things that are happening in the world, then this relationship naturally comes into being. That's what we were, more or less, talking about yesterday. And if we may continue we will go on from there.
I wonder if you have ever considered how we waste our life, how we dissipate our energies, how intellectually we are second-hand people, there is nothing but routine, boredom, loneliness, suffering, either physiologically or psychologically. And our life as it is lived now, unfortunately, has no meaning whatsoever, except to earn a livelihood which is obviously necessary, but besides that our whole life is fragmented, broken up, and a mind that is broken up, fragmented is a corrupt mind. The word 'corruption' comes from the Latin word 'rompere' which means to break up. A mind that is fragmented is a corrupt mind. And if you observe and are serious enough in your observation, not trying to alter what you see, but to see 'what is' and be with it entirely, then you will see how wasteful our life is, what is it that we want, what is it that we have achieved, what is it that we have become. For most of us life is a travail, a strife, and given a particular society, as this is, to be successful in it, to make money, either seeking power, position, prestige, or living a life of the bourgeois, a narrow, shallow, empty life, filled with all kinds of opinions, judgements, beliefs. And it seems to me, if I may point out, and if you are willing to listen, all that seems such a wasteful life, we are never happy - we are happy in the sense of the pursuit of pleasure, we derive a certain sense of enjoyment, a certain sense of gratification, satisfaction. But when you examine a little more deeply into ourselves, don't you find apart from what you have learnt from books, what you have learnt from the reactions of this culture in which you live, haven't you found that there is absolutely nothing inwardly, except what you have put into it. What you have put into it is the fabrications of thought. And thought doesn't bring about the total action of a human being. It's only partial, fragmentary.
And realising that our life, as it is, is empty, rather shallow, and of sorrow, we escape into various pursuits of pleasure, whether it be religious pleasure or so-called worldly pleasure - money, greater enjoyment, greater pleasures, buying more things, maintaining a society of consumerism and ultimately ending in the grave. That's our life. There is nothing sacred, there is nothing really religious.
And so observing all this, one asks, and I hope you will ask with me too because we are sharing together, we are journeying together, for this is a very serious matter, life is serious, dreadfully serious, and it is only those who are really deeply serious live; and those who are flippant, want to be entertained, seeking the entertainers, whether they be gurus, or the priests, or the intellectual philosophies, they become our life, words without substance, description without the described.
So one asks: what is the place of thought in our life? Because all our civilisation, our culture is based on thought. Your religions are the product of thought, your behaviour, the conduct, the business life, relationship, the accumulation of armaments, the army, the navy, the airforce, the whole thing, the thing that we call culture, civilisation, is based on thought, whether that thought is reasonable or unreasonable, logical or illogical, sane or neurotic, our action is based on thought - thought as an idea, thought as an ideal, because we are all terribly idealistic, most unfortunately. The ideal is not 'what is', the ideal is something invented by thought as a means to overcome 'what is'. And therefore in that ideal and 'what is' there is division and so conflict. I hope you are all following this, not merely listening to a series of words but actually observing the whole movement of your own mind so that you and the speaker can establish a relationship, a communication so that both of us understand what we are talking about, without agreement or disagreement, but merely observing actually what is.
So one must go into this whole question of what is thought and what is thinking. You know it is one of the most extraordinary things that the whole of Asia considered thought as a child of barren women, and they said, thought is measure, and to find the immeasurable, that which is beyond time and measure, thought, one must pursue the suppression of thought. Whereas the whole of the Western civilisation, culture, is based on thought. Thought is measurement. May I go on? I hope you are all following this, if you are not, it doesn't matter! (Clapping) Don't bother to clap, it's not worth it. As I said, this is really very, very serious and it requires great subtlety of mind to go into this. And I hope you are prepared on a Sunday morning with a beautiful sky and lovely clouds to investigate this question so that the mind is free from measurement, so that the mind knows vast space and silence, which is not measurable, which is not put together by thought.
As we were saying, the culture of the Western civilisation is based on thought, on measurement. And from that measurement has grown the whole technological world, and from that measurement the art of war. And there too religion is a matter of belief, acceptance, propaganda, saviours, and so on. Observing this phenomenon, both in the East and in the West, in the East they use thought to go beyond thought, and in the West they have accepted measurement, progress and a way of life that is based on technology, acquiring more and more and more, enjoying and having great pleasures in possessions, with their literature, poetry, you know, all the rest of it.
So a serious mind must ask this question: what place has thought in life? What is the function of thought? That is, thought either sane, logical, reasoned, or thought which has perverted life, giving importance to things, to property, to money, to pleasure, and thought which has accumulated so much information, both outwardly and inwardly. So I hope you are asking with me, with the speaker, what is the place of thought and what is its relationship to action. Because life is action, relationship is movement in action. And is there an action which is not bound by time as thought and measure? So we are going to go into this because it seems to me very important because our life is action; to live is to act; whatever we do is action, and if that action is time-binding, that is, bound by the past or the past through the present to the future, which is time-binding, then action is never liberating, then action is always fragmentary. And such action is corruption. All right, may I go on?
So what is action? And what is its relationship to thought?
Thought is the response of memory, as knowledge and experience, stored in the brain. You don't have to read neurological or scientific books, one can observe it in oneself if you are deeply interested in it. Without memory you cannot act, you cannot remember words, you then become in a state of amnesia, complete confusion. So thought is the response of memory, knowledge, experience stored in the brain. And thought responds to any challenge according to its conditioning. Right? If you are a Christian or a Hindu or a Buddhist or a communist or a capitalist your mind is conditioned and you act according to that conditioning. That conditioning is the memory, the experience, the knowledge of that particular culture or society in which you live. That's fairly obvious, isn't it? And so thought in action is separative, fragmentary, and brings about conflict. Right? Are we following all this, or am I talking to myself? Because sir, look, we must understand this question very, very seriously and very deeply because we are trying to find a way of life in which there is no conflict whatsoever, a way of life in which there is no sorrow, a way of life that is total, complete, whole, harmonious, sane. And thought may be one of the factors that brings about fragmentation and therefore corruption; therefore one must find out what is the function of thought and what place has thought in human relationship.
One can see very clearly that thought in the field of technology is essential. In the field of knowledge thought can function logically, sanely, objectively, efficiently, but that efficiency, sanity, objectivity becomes polluted when thought seeks through technology status. Right? And therefore there is conflict in that, and therefore corruption. When the mind seeks through technological function status then inevitably there must be conflict and therefore corruption - that's obvious. But you will go on seeking status all right, though you hear what is being said your conditioning is so strong, you will pursue in spite of logical, sane, rational thinking, you will pursue status and therefore continue in conflict and therefore corruption. Corruption isn't merely taking money from another, or doing ugly things, but the deep cause of corruption is when thought breaks up action into fragments - intellectual action, emotional action, and physical action or ideological action.
So from that: is there an action which is not fragmentary but whole? An action which is not controlled by thought or by measurement or by the past in human relationship? Right? Are you following all this?
Questioner: What do you mean by action?
K: I am going into that, madam, you are too quick. Action is when you say a word, action is a gesture of contempt or of welcome, action may be going from here to there, action according to a formula, action according to an opinion, action according to an idea, an ideal, or action based on some belief, neurotic or rational. That's action. You know what we mean by action: either acting according to the past pattern, or acting according to a future abstraction, or the movement of action which is always present. And is there an action in human relationship, because that is the most fundamental thing in life, relationship, from which behaviour, virtue, conduct, society is born. And what place has thought, which is, thought being measurement, conformity, acting according to a particular conclusion, knowledge which is all in the past, what place has thought in human relationship, or has it no place at all? If it has a place in human relationship, which is action, then thought limits, controls relationship, and therefore in that relationship there is fragmentation and hence conflict. I wonder how I can make it much more simple.
Look, sir, all right, let's proceed: there are two principles on which our life is based, are there not? Pleasure and fear. Please observe it in yourself. Pleasure has become tremendously important in life. The various forms of pleasure: sexual pleasures, intellectual pleasures, the pleasure of possession, the pleasure of money, the pleasure of power, prestige and so on, the pleasure of self-importance, the pleasure that you derive when the 'me', the ego asserts itself, through domination and so on, or accepts tyranny as a means of achievement of a different kind of pleasure. So there are different forms of pleasure. And in relationship that pleasure takes the form of dependency. You depend on another in relationship, psychologically. Where there is dependence there must be fear of losing, and therefore greater attachment. And the insistence and the pursuit of pleasure; the pursuit of pleasure sexually is fairly obvious, and most extraordinarily this pleasure has become the most important thing in life. And the pleasure of dependence, depending on another psychologically, because in oneself one is frightened of being alone, lonely, desperate, not having love or not being loved and so on. So there is the pursuit of pleasure and the constant avoidance of fear. And thought sustains both: you think about the pleasures that you have had yesterday, and you hope to have it again today, and if you don't have those pleasures continued you get violent, anxious, fearful. Observe this in yourself.
And there is this whole question of fear. A life that is lived in fear lives a dark ugly life. And most of us are frightened in different ways, and we shall examine that, we shall investigate this whole question of fear, whether the mind can be totally free of fear. Nobody wants to be free of pleasure but you all want to be free of fear, but you don't see that both of them go together, they are the two sides of the same coin, sustained by thought. That's why it is very important to understand thought. Oh, lord, there's so much to talk about in this. You know we have fears: fear of death, fear of life, fear of darkness, fear of your neighbour, fear of yourself, fear of a hundred things, fear of losing a job, insecurity, seeking security, and the deeper unconscious layers of fear hidden in the deep recesses of one's own mind. And is it possible without analysis - and please listen to this carefully - is it possible for the mind to be free of fear without analysis totally so the mind is really free to enjoy life, not the pursuit of pleasure but to enjoy life. And that's not possible as long as fear exists. And will analysis dispel fear? Or is analysis a form of paralysing the mind from the freedom of fear? Paralysis through analysis. I know you laugh, I thought you would, but you don't see the implication of it because you are used to analysis - that's one of the intellectual forms of entertainment. Because in analysis there is the analyser and the analysed, whether the analyser is a professional one or you yourself become the analyser. So when there is analysis there is the division between the analyser and the analysed and hence conflict. And in analysis you need time, you take days, years, and therefore it gives you an opportunity to postpone from action. You can analyse indefinitely the whole problem of violence, seeking its cause, explanations of different professionals, what the causes of violence are, reading volumes about the causes of violence and analysing it. All that takes time, and in the mean time you can enjoy your violence.
So analysis - please apply this, for God's sake, work at it - analysis implies division and postponement of action, and therefore analysis brings more conflict, not less. And analysis implies time. And so a mind that observes the truth of this is free of analysis and therefore is capable to deal directly with violence, which is 'what is'.
K: Wait, wait, I haven't finished, sir. You are going to ask questions after I have finished.
Whereas if you observe violence in yourself, violence brought about through fear, through insecurity, through the sense of loneliness, dependency, the cutting off of your pleasures and so on, if you are aware of that, observe it totally, without analysis, then you have all the energy which has been dissipated through analysis to go beyond 'what is'.
And fear, the deep-rooted fears given to us by the society in which we live, inherited from the past, they are there, and how can they all be exposed so that the mind is totally completely free of this terrible thing called fear? Will it come about through dreams? We saw, or at least one sees clearly the absurdity of analysis, and also are dreams necessary at all. And through dreams will you be free of violence? I am taking that as an example. And why should you dream at all, though the professionals say that you must dream otherwise you'll go mad. Why should you dream? When the mind is constantly active both during the day and night, it has no rest; it doesn't acquire the new quality of freshness. It is only when the mind is completely quiet, in sleep, utterly still, then it renews itself, but if you dream and through dreams you hope to overcome all the fears - or is it another of those fallacies that we accept so easily? Dreams are the continuation of our daily activity through sleep, but if you bring about order during the day, not order according to a blue print, not order according to an established society, or order according to the religious sanctions. I don't mean that, that's not order, that's conformity. Where there is conformity, obedience, there is no order. Order comes only when you observe your own life during the waking hours, how disorderly it is, how confusing. Through the observation of disorder order comes. And when you have such order in daily life then dreams become totally unnecessary. So can one observe the totality of fear, or only the branches of fear, not the very root of fear, the core of fear? Can the mind observe, see, be aware, give total attention to fear, whether it is hidden, put away deeply in the recesses of one's own mind, or the outward expressions of daily fears, as the fear of pain of yesterday coming back again today, or coming back again tomorrow, the fear of losing a job, the fear of being insecure, outwardly as well as inwardly, the fear, the ultimate fear of death. There are so many forms of fear. Should we break each branch, cut away each branch or tackle, come to grips with the totality of fear?
And is the mind capable of observing totally fear? You are following this? We are used to dealing with fear by fragments: I am afraid of this, or afraid of that; I am afraid of losing a job, or afraid of my wife, or my husband, or whatever it is, and we are concerned with fragments and not with the totality of fear. And to observe the totality of fear is to give complete attention when any fear arises. You can't, sitting there, invite fear now, but you can invite it if you want to, look at your fear completely, wholly, not as an observer looking at fear. Do you understand this?
You know, we look at anger, jealousy, envy, fear, or pleasure as an observer wanting to get rid of fear, or pursuing pleasure. So there is always an observer, a see-er, a thinker, so we look at fear as though you are outside of it looking in. Right? Now can you observe fear without the observer? Please, just stick to that question: can you observe fear without the observer? The observer is the past, the observer recognises the reaction which he calls fear in terms of the past, he names it as fear. So he is always looking from the past at the present and so there is a division between the observer and the observed. Do you understand this? So can you observe fear without the reaction to that as the past, which is the observer?
Have I explained it, or not? Look, sir, I look at you, who I've known, I've met you, you have insulted me, flattered me, you have done a great many things for me and against me - all that is the accumulated memory which is the past. And the past is the observer, is the thinker, and when he looks at you, he is looking with the eyes of the past, he doesn't look at you afresh. So he never sees you properly, he only sees you with the eyes which have already been corrupted, which have already been dulled. So can you observe fear without the past? That means not name the fear, not use the word 'fear' at all, but just observe. You have understood? Tant pis, I can't help it.
So, when you do that, when you observe totally, and that totality of attention is only possible when there is no observer, which is the past, then the whole content of consciousness as fear is dissipated.
Q: Is the fear from inside or outside?
K: I explained, madam, there is both fear from outside and fear from within. Fear of my son getting killed in a war, war is external, the invention of technology which has developed such monstrous instruments of destruction, and inwardly I cling to my son; I love him, and I have educated him to conform to the society in which he lives, which says, kill. And so I accept fear both inwardly and the destructive thing called war which is going to kill my son, and I call that, my love for my son. That's fear. When I lose my job - I won't go into all that because it requires... We have built a society which is so corrupt, which is so immoral - it is only concerned with possession, more and more, consumerism and so on, not concerned with the total development of man, of the world, human beings.
You know, we have no compassion, we have a great deal of knowledge, a great deal of experience; we can do extraordinary things, medically, technologically, scientifically, but we have no compassion whatsoever. Compassion means passion for all human beings, and animals, nature. And how can there be compassion when there is fear, when the mind is constantly pursuing pleasure? So you want pleasure, fear, to control fear, put it under ground and also you want compassion - you want them all. You can't have it. You can have compassion only when fear is not. And that's why it is so important to understand fear in our relationships. And that fear can be totally uprooted when you can observe the reaction without naming it, and the very naming of it is the projection of the past. So thought sustains and pursues pleasure, and thought also gives strength to fear - I am afraid of what might happen tomorrow, I am afraid of losing a job, I am afraid of time as death.
So thought is responsible for fear. Right? You understand this?
And we live in thought, our daily activity is based on thought. So what place has thought in human relationship? You have insulted me, that leaves a memory, that leaves a mark as memory in my mind, and I look at you with that memory, or if you flatter me, I look at you with that memory. So I never look at you without the eyes of the past. So it is very important to understand what place has thought in relationship. If it has a place then relationship is a routine, a mechanical, daily meaningless pleasure and fear.
So one comes to the question then: what is love? Is it the product of thought? And unfortunately it has been made as the product of thought - love of God and love of man and the destruction of nature. And to go into this question deeply to find out for oneself what love is, because without that, without that quality of compassion, we'll always suffer. And to come upon it, for the mind to have that deep compassion, one must understand suffering, for passion is the outcome of suffering. The meaning of that word 'passion', its root meaning, is sorrow, suffering. And most of us escape from suffering, not that we must accept suffering - that's silly, both physically as well as psychologically. And is thought the movement of suffering? Or is suffering something entirely different from thought? And therefore it is immensely important to understand the machinery of thinking - not verbally understand it but actually observe in ourselves what is thinking and see what its relationship is in our daily life.
It is nearly half past twelve. We will continue next Saturday, if you will, about the question of what love is, what compassion is and what death is. That is, what living is, love and death, because they are part of life. Living, not comprehending death is no living at all. Living without this compassion makes life an empty shell, which has to be filled with pleasure. We will go into that, if you will, next time we meet. Because it is time now, perhaps you would ask some questions, if you are willing.
Q: Krishnamurti, you say that time doesn’t matter and I have experienced in a timeless moment that comes and goes, that there is no conflict, it doesn’t really matter whether I am listening to bells or to you or to a friend. You speak of corruption in the world, in the culture, I have listened and I see there is only corruption in myself.
K: I explained that, sir. I explained yesterday that you are the world and the world is you - which is not an abstraction but a reality. You and I and others have made this world, not the physical world of nature but the social structure which we call the world with its laws, judgements, corruption and so on, wars, violence. It is part of us, and the structure is part of our thinking, so we are the world and the world is me. And to realise that, not merely a statement but as an actual fact, then responsibility, individual responsibility becomes immense. Yes sir?
Q: I have two fears and one of my fears is my ignorance, and the other is speaking here before you.
K: All right, sir, that's good enough. Just a minute. He has two fears: fear of ignorance and fear of speaking before the speaker. What is ignorance? Is it the lack of knowledge which is acquired through books - please listen to this - is ignorance the lack of knowledge of facts, of what other people have written or the accumulation of religious knowledge and so on and so on, is the lack of it, is that ignorance? Or is ignorance something much more deep? The ignorance of not knowing yourself, not knowing yourself totally, not according to some philosophers, or psychologists, but knowing yourself as you are and going beyond that. That is what I call ignorance, not knowing yourself as you are and going deeply and therefore beyond it.
And the next thing is, you are afraid to speak before this person sitting on this chair. He is nobody, sir, he is just pointing out things, he is acting as a mirror in which you are looking at yourself. What you are afraid of perhaps is looking at yourself, not afraid to speak before the speaker.
Q: I can understand that dreams would be unnecessary. In that event sleep also would be unnecessary. Am I right?
K: I don't quite understand what you have said, sir.
Q: You said in the course of discussion that dreams would be altogether unnecessary. Then in that case sleep also is unnecessary.
K: Oh, on the contrary. All right. Sir, may I take those two up? All right.
Q: If not in the sleep one can also remain conscious and observe how the dreams are happening to you – modify the contents of the dream.
K: I understand, sir.
Q: Then can he not make use of the dreams?
K: Wait, sir, I have understood, sir, may I go on now?
K: The gentleman says why do you say dreams are unnecessary, and if dreams are unnecessary is sleep also not necessary. Those are the two points. Are you interested in this question?
K: Why? (Laughter) Are you willing to penetrate into this problem and actually find out for yourself and not to repeat something, what another has said, so that it's yours first-hand, not second-hand. Because you are all second-hand people. So if you are willing, let's go into these two questions.
Are dreams necessary? What are dreams? Is it not a continuation of your daily activity, daily movement of thought, daily anxiety, daily sense of loneliness, anxiety, fear and so on, are they not the same movement which goes on while you are asleep in the form of symbols and dreams? Right? That's the question.
Q: No, sir.
Q: In dreams one feels he has more freedom to act.
K: Sir, of course not, when you are asleep - you are not meeting the point, sir. In dreams - we are asking what are dreams, not in that state can you act. Of course you can't act when you asleep. But please go step by step into this. Dreams, I said, are the continuation in forms of symbols, scenes of our daily activity, our daily activity being anxious, fearful, ambitious, you know all that, what we are, that movement is continuing when we are asleep. Otherwise would you have dreams? If during the day you had order in your life, order. Order being the observation of disorder, not an artificial order created by a society, by a fear, by fear, or by religious sanctions or what you think is order, which becomes mechanical. But whereas if you observe your daily life, which is confused, which is dependent psychologically, which has so many hurts, and that goes on while you are asleep. And if you have observed also the brain can only function when it is completely secure. You can find that security in some kind of neurotic belief or neurotic activity or neurotic state. Or that security for the brain comes into being when there is total order in your life. And that total order can only take place when you have observed very closely the disorder in which you live both psychologically as well as physically. Then when there is total order there may be superficial meaningless dreams which have no value at all and therefore the mind when it is resting is totally rested and therefore fresh, wakes up fresh, young, clear.
And the gentleman asks, is sleep necessary. You know, have you observed or read about that darkness is necessary for the flowers, for the trees; so darkness is necessary for nature as well as light. I am not saying darkness is sleep but sleep is necessary because when you sleep in total order, that means total harmony in the mind, the body and the heart - that is merely an artificial division - when there is total harmony the mind then when it sleeps rejuvenates itself, it becomes young, fresh and therefore innocent. You know that word 'innocent' means a mind that can never be hurt and therefore it's only such a mind that can never be hurt that is in complete harmony, only such a mind can understand that which is immeasurable. I think it is time, sir, to stop.
Q: If one achieves this state of tranquillity and peace, beyond passion and beyond pain, then doesn’t one return to passion and pain?
K: Sir - you have understood the question therefore I won't repeat it. You don't achieve tranquillity. There is no 'you' to achieve tranquillity, there is only tranquillity. You understand the difference? We always think in terms of achievement. That's why, sir, look, when you are happy, the moment you say, 'I am happy', happiness is not, is it? In the same way, the moment you are aware that there is tranquillity in you, tranquillity is not. So you cannot achieve tranquillity. What the mind can do is to observe the disorder, the fear, the lack of compassion, observe without the observer and then 'what is' is transformed and gone beyond.
Sir, let's stop.